Merab Dvalishvili breaks down how he matches up vs. UFC 299 headliners Sean O’Malley, Marlon Vera

Now the No. 1 contender at bantamweight, Merab Dvalishvili is looking ahead at how he matches up against the UFC 299 headliners.

Sean O’Malley (17-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) makes his first title defense in a rematch against Marlon Vera (21-8-1 MMA, 15-7 UFC) on March 9 at Kaseya Center in Miami. Like many rising bantamweight contenders, Dvalishvili has called out O’Malley in the past. He rates the champion’s striking skills highly but is confident he can get him down to the mat.

“Let’s talk about O’Malley. I see him as a dangerous opponent because he has good footwork,” Dvalishvili said on the MIGHTYcast podcast. “He has knockout power. He has a very strong right hand, and he has good timing. I see him as a dangerous fighter and once he win Contender Series, and once I saw him in UFC, I wanted to fight him because I want to challenge myself, and I’m still looking that way.

“I think I should keep it smart, just patient, keep it striking, and just wait for my time to shoot. If he defends and (I) let him go, and I’m going to shoot again, and then maybe make him slow, make him tired, and actually I will take him down.”

As for Vera, Dvalishvili praised “Chito’s” patience,  but admitted he’s not as well versed when it comes to his game.

“I think ‘Chito’ is also a good fighter, very smart,” Dvalishvili said. “He’s waiting. He’s in his pocket. He’s patient, and then he’s like slow, but he’s sharp. Of course, he has a lot of experience in UFC. He’s been in so many fights – some win, some loss. He’s dangerous, of course. He has good kicks as well, but I don’t study him much, ‘Chito’ Vera yet.

“One thing is for sure, I will just train hard. What I learned is, you’ve got to go step by step. Every fight, like, you know, like, let’s say I’m focused on my next fight, next fight, next fight. That’s how I’ve been, and I realized that couple of years ago, just focus on next fight. So if ‘Chito’ will win, I will just start studying him but just keep doing my thing.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 299.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie